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Equal pay for community sector staff hangs in the balance

26 August 2020 at 5:15 pm
Maggie Coggan
The community services sector could lose upwards of $500 million if funding is not renewed

Maggie Coggan | 26 August 2020 at 5:15 pm


Equal pay for community sector staff hangs in the balance
26 August 2020 at 5:15 pm

The community services sector could lose upwards of $500 million if funding is not renewed 

Community sector leaders fear a “massive dislocation” in community services as a federal funding deal that allows workers in the female-dominated sector to receive fair pay draws to a close with no plan for renewal. 

Ahead of Equal Pay Day on 28 August, the Australian Council for Social Services (ACOSS) has called on the federal government to commit to renewing the 2012 funding agreement, which they say would not only support fair pay in the sector, but essential services.  

With women making up 80 per cent of the community services workforce, the landmark Fair Work Commission decision to address the gendered undervaluation of work in 2012 saw wages increase by up to 45 per cent over eight years. 

Most governments across Australia, including the federal government, also provided additional funding in this time to address the pay discrepancy in the sector. 

Currently, the national gender pay gap is 14 per cent, which means on average, women working full-time earn $1,558.40 per fortnight while men working full-time earn $1,812.00.

ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said that with women found to be bearing the brunt of the pandemic, it was vital the federal government did not take Australia backwards by scrapping the funding. 

“In the lead up to Equal Pay Day, the federal government should commit to fair funding for community services to help tackle the gender pay gap and ensure our communities are receiving the supports they need, especially in crisis,” Goldie said.

Sector will take financial hit 

ACOSS spokesperson John Mikelsons told Pro Bono News that not renewing the deal could see a $500 million hit to services and jobs in the sector. 

“We’ll see massive dislocation in the sector, thousands of job losses and fewer services for people experiencing poverty, disadvantage and marginalisation,” Mikelsons said. 

“And that will significantly impact on women workers in the sector doing work that had previously been regarded as an extension of a woman’s role in the home.”

He said that during the current crisis, it was particularly important to support services that helped vulnerable people.   

“It’s critical during this period where the health of our community and the livelihoods of billions of people are under threat by this pandemic, that the work performed in our sector is properly valued and continues to be funded,” he said.  

With a decision to be handed down about the funding in the October federal budget, Mikelsons said it was critical that community sector organisations made their voices heard on the issue. 

“Organisations are making decisions now and planning their finances and their budgets,” he said. 

“And it’s important that this funding is locked in to give certainty to the sector about their future, especially at such an unstable time for so many organisations.” 

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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